Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Archive for April, 2009

Electric Cars – coming soon to the Philippines

Posted by butalidnl on 28 April 2009

Electric cars, mostly of the hybrid type (i.e. they have both gasoline and electric engines) is on the verge of entering the mass market. Many car producers have unveiled plans to produce a hybrid electric car by as early as 2010.  Recently, electricity distributors in the Netherlands have set up a project to install 10,000 recharging stations (for electric cars) throughout the country. This trend is driven by the many factors: the drive to lower carbon emissions, high oil prices (or the threat that oil prices will rise again), technological breakthroughs in electric engine and battery design…

This trend will most certainly affect the Philippines too – in as soon as a year or two from now. Perhaps it then not too early to look into how electric cars could impact the country.

Relatively Fast Adoption
People who have cars in the Philippines mainly use them for short distances, usually within the city or metropolitan area. The first wave of hybrid electric cars will have a range of 200 kilometers on a full charge. Already, this would be more than enough for most cars. In addition, the electric car is quite suited to the stop-go traffic in the city, being a lot more economical than oil-based cars.

Already, Filipinos are starting to get used to having electric vehicles. The solar jeepney in Makati and the E3 tricycles in Taguig show that public transportation operators are open to having electric vehicles.

An important factor that would affect the rate of adoption of hybrid electric cars would be its cost.  The cost of the electricity needed to charge the cars would be much less than that of the gasoline or diesel needed by ordinary cars.  But the price of the car itself should not be too high as to negate the advantage of the cheaper fuel. Hopefully, if Chinese companies are able to produce hybrid electric cars that are cheap – or at least not much more expensive than ordinary cars -Philippine auto buyers will buy a lot of them.

Effect on Electricity Supply
The adoption of electric cars, if massive enough, would have an effect on the overall supply of electricity.  There would be a need to rapidly build more capacity in the electric grid, to be able to cope with the increased demand. If the cars are recharged mainly overnight, the effect would be somewhat lesser, since it would not burden the electricity grid during the daytime peak hours. However, if cars are recharged mainly during the day – while being parked near workplaces – then it would really increase the burden on the grid.

The price of electricity will increase in response to the increased demand. This in turn will help to bring alternative sources of energy nearer the break-even point, where it would be competitive with fossil-fuel sources of electricity. And the increased price will also force consumers to conserve electricity.

There is a danger that the rapid adoption of electric cars will result in electricity outages. And that new fossil-fuel electricity generating plants may have to be built to cope with the increased demand. But since electric cars are more efficient than traditional cars, the net effect will be to reduce overall fossil-fuel consumption.

Less Pollution
Electric cars do not pollute during operation. The pollution is made in the electricity generating plant instead. And the pollution will depend on how the electricity is generated – naturally, a fuel-oil  generator will still emit pollution, while wind or hydro generators will not.
But since electric cars operate cleanly, it means that the pollution in the streets and the cities will be less. There would be less fumes from traffic, our clothes will get less dirty, noise levels will be less, etc.  And since the pollution is generated in the electricity generating plants, anti-pollution measures could be more easily put into place.

See also:   Electric Cars

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Adjusting the allocation of party-list seats

Posted by butalidnl on 23 April 2009

The Philippine Supreme Court has decided to scrap the 2 percent (of the total votes) minimum for winning a party-list seat in Congress. This made it possible to fill up the 54 seats reserved for party-list Representatives in the House. This was because the SC realized that having a 2% lower limit made it mathematically impossible to get 54 seats filled; and that having too few party-list representatives was undesirable, even unconstitutional.

But this is only one of the ways of adjusting the party-list law to ensure that it produces the needed amount of Representatives. The original law had both a minimum percentage (2%) and a maximum number of seats per party (3 seats). The solution that the SC chose was to scrap the minimum. The seats could also have been filled by scrapping the maximum – thus allowing parties to have more than 3 seats.

There are advantages and disadvantages in either approach. The scrapping of the minimum required votes (as they have done now) ensures that more parties get representatives, and thus potentially allows more “underrepresented sectors” to get represented. However, it raises the possibility of parties winning seats even when they have only a few votes; and thus “overrepresenting” these parties. The present party-list groups could also give birth to “new” parties in the hope of getting more total seats in Congress.

Scrapping the 3-representatives per party limit is fair in that those parties with more supporters get proportionally more Representatives than those with less supporters. The problem with this is that some parties will dominate the party-list groups, and even drown out the smaller party-list groups in Congress.

The Supreme Court’s choice of scrapping the lower limit is probably the better one. It maximizes the number of party-list Representatives, giving a voice to more points of view.  The best part of the SC’s decision is that it decided that leaving so many of the party-list seats unfilled was unconstitutional. For so long, these seats were left unfilled, and there was not too much fuss about it. If the empty seats were for district Representatives, the uproar that would ensue would ensure that immediate steps would have been taken to fill the seats.

We could take the logic of representation even further. The House of Representatives should then be composed in such a way as to provide representation to the widest variety of constituencies.  I believe that this is best achieved by increasing the number of party-list seats – from 1/5th of the total to perhaps one half. And together with this would be the lifting of the upper limit of 3 seats/party. With this number of Representatives chosen by proportional representation, it would then be possible (even desirable) to allow all parties to vie for these seats. The underrepresented sectors will still be able to have enough representatives in this system. At the same time, the established parties would be more answerable to a national constituency than now.

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Sports’ effect on Obama and other leaders

Posted by butalidnl on 14 April 2009

President Obama is known for his love of basketball, and it should not come as too much of a surprise if we would note that his style of leadership is clearly marked by basketball.  Basketball is a rather fast sport, with the teams aiming to score as many baskets as possible. Obama’s pace of initiatives is breathtaking, and while he does his best to think through these new policies, he does not really strive to make them perfect, in the knowledge that piling up “good but not necessarily excellent” policies would end up well.

This effect of the sport on the leadership style of world leaders is apparent not only in the case of Obama. Russia’s Vladimir Putin does judo, and this is also quite evident in his style. He allows his opponent to attack till he his able to use this to pull them off balance, and use their weight against themselves in defeating them. He has done this domestically with Podorkovski of Yukos, and especially in the recent war with Georgia. In the Georgian case, he succeeded in baiting the Georgians to attack South Ossetia first, even having his army ready and waiting for the Georgians to make the first move. Quite sneaky, but quite successful tactic, which we cannot fail to associate with his judo skills.

China’s former leader Deng Xiao Ping played bridge as his “sport”, and this also showed in the way he managed his country. In bridge, the players initially count their cards – classifying them into sure winners, sure losers, and the unsure cards. They then try to convert these unsure cards, often doing things that would work in cards are in certain places or distribution, in the hope of converting these unsure cards into “winners”.  In politics, this would reflect in the art of turning the politicians in the middle, so that they would take your side. And he would not get too bothered by the “sure losers”, which he had discounted already from the beginning.

Obama, Putin and Deng Xiaoping are all accomplished leaders,  which shows that the different styles could work. Or is it that the successful  style of leadership sort of fits with a given country’s particular conditions at a specific time.

Posted in World Affairs | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »